Not everyone has the time and talent to wrap a gift the way Rodney Simmons does, but the techniques favored by the owner of Revival Uncommon Goods can add layers of luxury to make the gift as well as its packaging unforgettable.
"It's not necessarily about the act of buying or how much you're buying," he said. " ... When you slow down just a little bit and take some time to thoughtfully package the gift, it extends the message that 'I really want to give this to you.' "
Simmons said he takes a curatorial approach to the selection of antiquities, home furnishings and other handpicked indulgences sold at his Warehouse Row boutique. He wanted the packaging of each purchase to reflect the same level of attention.
"When I created Revival Uncommon Goods in October 2002 ... I knew if we did beautiful gift wrapping it would be a calling card, a way of saying that something inside that box is really special," Simmons said.
The thoughtful packaging begins with the store's signature "chocolate box," named for its rich brown color. Revival stocks an assortment of materials for wrapping -- not only a selection of papers, but fabrics and tissue papers, along with excelsior shreds for packaging; dozens of ribbons and twines to bind the box; and baubles ranging from feathers and branches to bookmarks and candies to affix with the name tag. He'll often spritz the interior with essential oil to add fragrance. The end result is not just a package but a confection.
"We try to hit as many of the senses as we can," he said. "You have all those different textures. You see it, feel it, smell it. The anticipation grows as you unwrap all those layers."
TIPS FOR BASIC GIFT-WRAPPING
- Wrapping paper: Rolled wrap is preferable to wraps sold in folded squares, which have deep creases. For straighter cutting, look for wraps that have solid lines or repeating designs to follow with scissors.
- Tape: Use the "invisible" brands, which will disappear into the packaging much better than glossy strips.
- Scissors: Don't be afraid to trim the paper to fit the box. By avoiding too much overlap of the wrapping paper, you get cleaner, sharper lines. This is a particular problem with excess wrap on the ends, which can create a messy, bunching effect.
- Filler paper: Tissue paper can be an aesthetic or functional addition. Added to a sweater box, for example, it adds a final layer of mystery for what's inside. Used in bunches, it can protect a fragile gift.
- Ribbons and bows: Be creative. Everything from grosgrain ribbons to twine can enhance the look of the package.
- Baubles: For an extra finishing touch, consider adding an accessory. These can be organic materials, such as feathers or branches, or something that hints at what's inside the box, such as a cookie cutter if gifting a cookbook.
- Name tags: Stores carry all kinds, or you can make your own with card stock or scrapbooking supplies. To make names easier to read, write with Sharpies in festive colors.
- For added luxury: Fabrics and excelsior shreds are among the materials Rodney Simmons presses into service at his Warehouse Row boutique, Revival Uncommon Goods.
One of his favorite packages, he said, was a wedding gift that he wrapped in white linen, first adding the couple's monogram to the length of cloth. Casual gift-wrappers should remember that everything from scarves to kitchen towels to random fabric swatches also can be used to cloak a gift.
The excelsior shreds, which are used as filler in the box, are not only more festive-looking but have an air of heirloom quality about them. The shreds also absorb the essential oils he uses to fragrance a gift.
-- Compiled by Lisa Denton
WHERE TO GET HELP
All of the area malls have Santa's helpers willing to wrap gifts.
Chattanooga's Kids on the Block will man two booths through Christmas Eve. They are located on the upper level near the Tourist Information Booth and on the lower level near JCPenney.
This is the 28th year that the United Way agency has raised funds with gift-wrapping services. Resource manager Carly Lewallen says volunteers wrap too many gifts to count each season.
"We don't keep track, but it's thousands of presents," she said.
This year's assortment of papers includes a limited supply of Natalie Jump's winning entry in the Times Free Press Gift Wrap Design Contest.
Prices are $3 for a small item, $5 for medium and $8 and up for larger gifts. Call 757-5259 for more information.
Hixson High School Band Boosters use their gift-wrap station as one of two major fundraisers (the other is concession sales at football games). The booth, stocked with 14 selections of papers, is between Sears and Belk for Home. Prices range from $2 to $7.
Parent volunteer Sheri Schannuth said some customers are very clear on how they want their gifts wrapped, while others are happy to leave all the decisions to the Boosters' band of Santa's helpers.
The month starts out slowly, according to Schannuth, but gradually increases in intensity as Christmas draws near.
"Christmas Eve is insane," she said.
The upside for Schannuth is that wrapping gifts for hours in the mall pays off at home. "It makes me more efficient," she said.
Walnut square mall
The Murray County Band Boosters are working the next two Saturdays near Belk Home & Kids at the Dalton, Ga., mall. Doing the honors will be students raising money for their individual band accounts.
"The parents donate the materials, and the kids go in and wrap the gifts," said fundraising organizer Darlene Williams.
There are no set fees for wrapping services.
"It's purely by donation," Williams said. "(Customers) don't have to pay anything for our services, but of course we like for them to. And some will just donate to the band even if they don't have anything to wrap."
Williams said the club tried charging for the service last year, but the results were disappointing.
"The spirit of Christmas is to give back," she said, "so we just let people give what they can."
Bradley Square mall
The Salvation Army of Cleveland, Tenn., is on its third year wrapping gifts at the Cleveland mall.
"The people of our community have been very generous," said Sgt. Ruthie Forgey, corps administrator. "If they have a $5 gift to wrap, they may pay with a ten and tell us to keep the change. They understand that we are doing this not just to profit for ourselves but to profit the organization and all the people it serves."
The two weeks leading up to Christmas are especially hectic, Forgey said.
The majority of customers are teenagers with gifts for a boyfriend or girlfriend and children who need presents wrapped for their parents.
"And we do have some men who come up with a shopping cart full and say, 'What time do you want me to come back,' " she said.
The wrapping booth is in a storefront across from Aéropostale and American Eagle. Prices range from $2 to $8.
-- Compiled by Lisa Denton
Recycle, repurpose, wrap with style
- Gift: Art supplies.
- Wrap it: This is the easiest wrap of all. Place box in center of square scarf (fabric scrap or napkin). Knot opposite corners of scarf in center. Tuck in any excess fabric. Corners of scarf in center make the bow.
- Gift: Jewelry.
- Wrap it: Place gift in recycled tin filled with shredded paper. Wrap with silver paper. Tie red grosgrain ribbon around package. Push ribbon ends through silver washer from hardware store and tie knot to hold washer in place. Cut ribbon ends into V shapes. The bronze ribbon on bottom was too short to meet in middle, so a rubber band was used to extend its length. Place rubber band on ribbon, fold the ribbon end around rubber band and staple. Place opposite side of rubber band on remaining ribbon end and staple so that you have a circle of ribbon that will stretch. The silver washer and red ribbon will cover the hole and rubber band.
- Gift: Wooden bead jewelry-making kit for child who loves outdoors.
- Wrap it: Wrap gift with bright paper. Gather twigs from yard into bundle. Tie fabric scrap around gift, place twigs on top and knot fabric scrap to hold twigs in place. Leaves are recycled from silk flowers.
- Gift: Neoprene shoe covers for cyclist.
- Wrap it: Fold gift into rectangle, and wrap with tissue paper. Roll red placemat around tissue-wrapped gift. Tie a piece of wired ribbon around mat. Make waves in ribbon with fingers. Stuff ends with shredded paper. Gift tag is cut from index card and stamped with person's initial.
- Gift: Jewelry for a girly girl.
- Wrap it: Substitute pretty magazine picture for wrapping paper. Use tulle to make an airy bow. Wire red berries from old holiday wreath to bow's center.
- Gift: Safety wrist light for bicycle rider.
- Wrap it: Place in cookie or tea tin (or cardboard mailing cylinder). Wrap tin with tissue, leaving generous portion at top. Cut map 1 inch shorter than tin and wrap around outside so that tissue shows at top and bottom. Tie top of tissue with rawhide. Gift tag is key ring from hardware store with circle of map glued to front.
- Gift: Craft project for child.
- Wrap it: Wrap in colorful paper. To make tissue flower: Fold sheet of tissue in half, fold in half again, keep folding until width is the size you want flower to be. Cut all four edges of folded tissue. Fold in half again and cut narrow wedge on each side of fold, leaving about 1 inch of uncut fold in center. Tie raffia tightly around center of tissue stack. To make flower: Start at bottom layer on one side and pull one petal to the left and the next to the right, alternating until each layer of tissue is fluffed. Do the same on the other side. Wire or tie a small Christmas ball or berry to center of flower.
Lisa Denton is deputy features editor and content editor of Current. She previously was a lifestyle, entertainment and region reporter/pod leader for The Chattanooga Times, which she joined in 1983. Lisa is from Sale Creek and holds an associate’s degree in journalism from Chattanooga State Community College. Contact Lisa at 423-757-6281 or firstname.lastname@example.org.